New Jersey visit and a salad to recover.

I am back after a week long visit with family in New Jersey. Both Brian and I grew up in Bergan County, New Jersey; and it is where our parents still reside. Over the last several years Brian’s brother and his family have moved an hour away, and in the last few so has my sister. She also lives about an hour away (in and opposite direction from Brian’s brother) with her family. So even though we visit for a week, we spend it traveling back and forth along Northern New Jersey trying to see and spend personal time with them all. It is great to see everyone, but there is never enough time to catch up with everyone. Noelle and Uncle Brian. (Noelle just woke up from her nap!)

I will say that our time with the family on this trip was well spent. I had two days with my sister and her family. We got to meet our newest little niece, Noelle (10 months old).That was thrilling; staring at this chubby, curly haired little one and noticing that everything she looks at seems to fascinate her. Noelle’s older sister Gia (6 years old) has recently formed quite an interest in cooking and baking – yes, I am thrilled! I promised I would bake with her during our visit, and we did just that. I showed her how to make made French bread; she was amazed by working with yeast and learning about it. She took the bowl of dough that was wrapped for resting and rising to show her mom and my parents. Whispering to them - “It’s the yeast in there. It is working to rise the bread.” We also had to make cookies, as I brought her a new cookbook all about cookies. Of all the recipes she picked out Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies …a girl after my own heart.  The days went by too fast, but we cherished every second we had.

Gia and I measuring out ingredients for our afternoon of baking.

Gia and I tasting the cookies she made and enjoying them.

On another night we went to Brian’s brother’s home to eat dinner. Brian’s niece, Lora (13 years old), told us about the latest trends in fashion (she is a little fashionista).  Lora then asked us about gnocchi. She remembered eating them and thought it was with us. We were not sure if we did, but Brian explained to her that I make them and they are not too difficult to make. A couple of days later we were in his parent’s kitchen rolling out gnocchi dough from scratch. It was fun to show her how to make them and I think she was impressed how easy it was. She asked a lot of good questions about the process, but more than anything I am so happy Brian and I got to spend that time with her. We then all sat around the table feasting on gnocchi and sharing family stories. It was a good time, and many memories were made. (Recipe for the gnocchi can be found here, and the tomato sauce can be found here.)

Gnocchi production underway with my niece Lora.

The Gnocchi Lora an I made.

Besides the back and forth with family across the northern half of New Jersey, we did escape for a day to New York City. We spent a few hours in the Guggenheim, stopped in at a favorite bakery, finally got to drink some really great coffee (I’ve lived the Pacific Northwest too long and we are spoiled here when it comes to coffee. We toured Chelsea Market, and then in the evening we got together with some of Brian’s old high school friends. It was a great evening together, and while we were there we realized that we have not all been in the same room together for 13 years! We made up for the lost time, laughing and catching up on life. It was time extremely well spent.

Brian and his high school buddies. An evening well spent!

By the time we got home to Seattle we were exhausted. The week went by like a cool breeze on a warm day. It was enjoyable, yet too quick. Before we knew it the time was gone, and our regular life started back up. We had a great time with all our visiting, but I think we ate way too much! I walked to the market and picked up some really nice seasonal veggies and felt that a hearty salad was in order. We needed the boost of veggies after the crab heavy diet we indulged in while we visited. We ate one too many pasta dishes, pastries, bagels, gnocchi, pizza, ice cream, and more. I guess that is what vacation is all about? So in the meantime Brian and I will be happy with a hearty salad or two. This particular one was great with fresh asparagus that was just picked from a local farm, sweet English peas, and a tarragon dressing. The brightness of the fresh tarragon gives this salad more depth than any ordinary oil and vinegar dressing. If you are like us and needed the break from all the heavy eating you will not be disappointed. It was light and fulfilling. I am missing the family and few friends we got to catch up with. (And there were so many we didn"t get to see.) Hopefully it will not be too long before we see them again, but will eat more veggies in prep for our next trip!

Hearty  vegetable salad, with asparagus, peas, and quinoa.

Asparagus and Pea Salad with Tarragon Dressing (serves 4)

**Note: if fresh peas are not available, feel free to use the frozen ones. They will work out just fine.

½ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup fresh peas

1 cup quinoa, cooked

2 tbsp mayo

2 tsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp Sherry vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

4-5 leaves of lettuce (romaine or green leaf), chopped small

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2-3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

First; place a pot of salted water over a high flame and bring to a boil. Next, cook you quinoa to its packaged instructions. When quinoa is done cooking place in a bowl and set aside to cool.

Next; in a bowl place your mayo, Dijon, tarragon, shallot, garlic, and sherry vinegar in a bowl. Whisk it all together then slowly add in the olive oil. Your dressing should become thick and emulsified. Season it with sea salt and black pepper and set aside. At this time your salted water should be boiling. Place your asparagus and peas into the boiling water. Let them al simmer together about 3 minutes. You veggies will turn bright green and be cooked perfectly. Strain the veggies into a colander and rinse several times under cold water to chill the veggies and stop their cookie process.

Then; toss the veggies and the quinoa with a bit of the dressing. Again season with sea salt and black pepper if you feel it needs it.

Finally, upon serving place the lettuce across the bottom of your platter. Pile the dressed quinoa and veggies over the top of it. Sprinkle it all with the crumbled goat cheese. And drizzle with the remaining dressing if you like.

Moroccan Citrus Salad

Not too long ago I was killing time in a book store. Noting too uncommon there, I tend to wander my way through them often. I did however walk out with two new books in my hand. I purchased the one I went in for, and then this other one that caught my eye and I could not put down. The book that happened to catch my attention was “Pomegranates & Pine Nuts”, by Bethany Kehdy. It is a beautiful book about Moroccan, Lebanese, and Persian recipes. The recipes are exotic and the photos are so intriguing that flipping through the pages you want to make each and every recipe just at the glace of them. The colorful plates and beautifully displayed food made my mouth water as I turned each page. I began to way out my options, I had to make one of the recipes; but witch one would be first. I settled on the recipe picture on the cover, a Moroccan Citrus Salad.

Moroccan Citrus Salad

Right now citrus is so perfectly juicy and ripe there was no way I could not make this salad. After coming home with a variety of citrus I whipped up the salad. This salad was so simple to put together, really refreshing, and delicious as it went down. The added benefit is to think of the vitamin C boost you get while eating this. I had this salad along the side of a rich vegetable stew, tried it with some roasted sweet potato, and ate it as a snack in the afternoon. It really is perfect each and every way you devour it. With holidays just around the corner I could see a salad like this gracing the table at your family gathering. Give it a try because it really is deliciously scrumptious and deserves a lot of attention.

One serving of Moroccan Citrus Salad

Moroccan Citrus Salad (serves 4 – 6)

*Adapted from the book Pomegranates & Pine Nuts

2 navel oranges

1 ruby red grapefruit

2 cara cara oranges

1 lemon

~all the above trimmed with the rind cut off while leaving the citrus fruit intact. Slice them all evenly

2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds

1 tbsp of pistachios, chopped small

1 tsp of mint leaves, chopped

1 oz of feta cheese, crumbled

2 tsp of honey

1 tsp of rose water

1 tbsp of olive oil

¼ tsp of ground cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper

First, over a large platter alternate your sliced citrus. Over the top of it sprinkle your pomegranates, pistachios, mint leaves, and feta.

Next; drizzle the honey, rose water, and olive oil over the citrus on your platter. Then sprinkle your cinnamon and black pepper over the top. Cover the salad with a bit of plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Finally, when ready to serve remove from refrigerator and divide among plates and enjoy. Best when served chilled.

Garlicy Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers

Some of the greatest things to find at the farmers markets this time of year are all the late summer vegetables. The ones that are co-mingling with the new autumn harvests. My particular favorite is the peppers that you see. All different kinds, beautifully colored, and each one bursting with a lovely freshness that you only get from the late summer sun. I picked up a few different chilies and some yellow and orange bell peppers last week. I was saving the chilies for a curry or two; but the bell peppers I had something special in mind. Personally, I adore roasting bell peppers. I feel the roasting intensifies the flavor of the pepper presenting its natural sweetness; meanwhile it creates a beautiful texture that is not achieved any other way. On my day off I roasted the bell peppers in the morning. After peeling the charred skins and letting them marinate in a garlicy dressing. Within an hour you have a glorious marinated salad that is great to eat on its own, or with just about anything. I really enjoy it with some crusty bread or some faro, but you can eat it with whatever you choose. This is one of those dishes that will get better as it sits, so feel free to make it a day or two ahead of time and let it all mingle together …it develops a great taste that I know you will enjoy.

Garlicy Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers

Garlicy Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers (serves 4)

3 bell pepper

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 tbsp of capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of sherry vinegar

Sea Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First; over an open flame or in the broiler of your oven, roast your bell pepper until it is well charred and completely blacken on all sides. Be sure you are rotating the peppers often so they roast and char evenly. Once completely charred, set aside to cool completely.

Next; once your bell peppers are cool, gently peel away your charred skins leaving the flesh of the bell pepper. Cut away the stem and seed of your bell pepper leaving you with your fleshy roasted bell peppers. Slice the roasted bell peppers into strips and place in a large mixing bowl.

Then; in the mixing bowl place your garlic, capers, extra virgin olive oil, and sherry vinegar. Toss it well so that it all is evenly coated. Season it well with the sea salt and black pepper. Cover and let it sit to marinate at least one hour at room temperature; if letting it marinate longer place it in the refrigerator until ready.

Finally; when ready to serve toss it well again and taste your marinated peppers. Add extra sea salt and black pepper t this time if you feel it needs it. Serve chilled and along with some crusty bread or over some cooked faro as a starter or side to your meal. When serving the marinated peppers be sure to let some of the dressing pool around your garlicy peppers to be absorbed by the bread or the faro. This also makes a great accompaniment to an antipasto plate.

**Note: this dish sits well when covered and refrigerated up to a week.

Moving in with some Vanilla Rubbed Pork Chops and a Peach and Fennel Salad

The last three and a half weeks have been like a whirl wind. I take that back, it has been like a storm. A nonstop flutter of packing, cleaning, moving…Not to mention the unpacking, organizing, and more cleaning.  I could have sworn that the last time we moved we donated and sold about half of our belonging that we didn’t really use. If that is the case then how do we still have so much???  And why are we packing it up again? I have questioned everything, and made several trips to the Good Will. Somehow I own more kitchen related things than anything else? As we were unpacking I took note that box after box was labeled in some kitchen related way: pantry, baking dishes, platters, baking pans, china, kitchen utensils, jarring, glasses, pots, kitchen gadgets, and I didn’t even touch upon the numerous boxes of cookbooks. What I didn’t tell you was that the kitchen is the smallest room in this apartment. Oh what a challenge of deciding what to put where. Thank goodness there is a nicely sized dining room right off the kitchen that I have already spilled off into.

My tiny kitchen. (View from our dinning room.)

As Brian and I were unpacking (and I knew where my pots and pans were) I told him it was time I made a nice meal in our new home. For some time now I have known about using vanilla in a savory ways but never tried it. After unpacking one of my pantry boxes and noticing I had a quite a bit of vanilla beans I wanted to try it out. I walked down to the market and picked up some pork chops from the butcher that were and inch and a half thick, along with some ripe peaches and fennel. When I was back home I worked the vanilla bean seeds into a paste with some cinnamon, sea salt, and pepper and rubbed it all over the pork chops. I kept the peaches simple with the fennel and made them into a bright and lovely salad along the side. Together they were a lovely combination. The mild sweetness of the pork was perfumed with the vanilla bean rub. The sweet and tart peaches tossed with fennel and some parsley was really colorful on the pallet and cut through the richness of the pork really well. It was a perfect meal for the late summer and early fall we are experiencing. It was also a perfect meal for our new apartment and made it feel and smell more like a home. I see many great meals like this one in our future! Now back to the unpacking and organizing.

Vanilla Bean Rubbed Pork Chop

Vanilla Bean Rubbed Pork Chops (feed 4)

2 tbsp of sea salt

1 tsp of fresh ground black pepper

½ tsp of ground cinnamon

1 vanilla bean, spit and seeds scraped out

4 pork chops

3 tbsp of butter

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix your sea salt, black pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla seeds real well. The vanilla bean seeds are sticky and somewhat pasty, so be sure to work it all together well and not have your vanilla seeds clump up.

Next, take your pork chops and pat them dry. Take your vanilla bean sea salt mixture and liberally sprinkle the chops on both sides, gently rub the mixture into your chops. Place a nonstick pan over medium heat and melt about 2 tablespoons of your butter in it. Gently place one or two of your pork chops (whatever fits into your pan) into the melted butter and let it simmer away. Once the down side of your chop is seared in the butter and nicely golden you can turn it and repeat on the other side. You are not looking to cook the pork chops all the way through, just sear its sides. Repeat until all your chops are done adding the remaining butter if needed.

Then, when your chops are seared you can place them on a sheet pan. When all chops are on the sheet pan you can place them in the oven for about twenty minutes.  You are looking for them to cook through to a nice medium doneness.

Finally; when our pork chops are done to your liking, remove from the oven and let fest about ten minutes before serving. Serve while still warm and with the salad that follows.

Peach and Fennel Salad

Peach and Fennel Salad (serves 4)

2 – 3 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced into 8th or 10th

1 small – medium bulb of fennel; trimmed and thinly sliced, white parts only

½ cup of parsley, lightly chopped

1 lemon, zested and juiced

¼ cup of olive oil

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First; in a deep platter or one with a nice rim to it layer your fennel, peaches, and parsley.

Next, over the top of it all drizzle your olive oil and lemon juice.  Over the top of that sprinkle your sea salt, black pepper, and lemon zest.

Finally, give your salad a gentle toss and taste to see if you need to adjust your seasoning. Keep salad chilled until ready to serve. I like to prep this salad no more than an hour before eating.

Peaches and Ricotta, don't knock it till you try it.

A couple of years ago while eating freshly picked peaches I had this urge to eat them with some creamy ricotta cheese. I’m not sure where the craving came from. Sometimes these things just strike me, but eating the bright and sweet peach I could not stop thinking of ricotta cheese. As it should be I had some ricotta in my refrigerator. I tried the two together and it was sublime. To me it had a more savory appeal then the sweet approach of the traditional peaches and cream. That night I pared up a plate of arugula, peaches, toasted nuts, some balsamic dressing, and along the side: a scoop of ricotta cheese. Brian & I loved it . I often made the salad when peaches were in season for lunch at our bakery. Over time I have tweaked the exact combo of this salad, but this is the version that we enjoy the most. With some super ripe doughnut peaches Brian picked up from the farmer’s market I had to make this for dinner. It was just as scrumptious as always. If you get your hand on some ripe peaches you will have to try it out yourself.

Ripe Doughnut Peaches pared with Ricotta,Arugula, Wheat Berries, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Peach, Ricotta, Arugula,& Grain Salad (Serves 4)

4-5 peaches (depending on their size); peeled, pitted, and sliced

1 bunch of arugula; washed well, trimmed, and chopped if needed

15 oz container of whole, or part skim ricotta cheese

1/3 cup of wheat berries or faro, simmered in water until tender

Scant ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling

Balsamic vinegar (aged at least 5 years), for drizzling

Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

**Note: this is the time to use a really bright and fruity tasting olive oil. The better olive oil you use the more the flavor of your peaches and ricotta will pop in your mouth.

First, on each plate; arrange all the components to your salad. I like to group them- peaches, arugula, your grain, and a small sprinkle of pine nuts.

Then, gently scoop some of your ricotta neatly onto the plate. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over it all just barely coating your ingredients.

Finally, give it all a generous sprinkle of the sea salt and fresh black pepper and serve.

Panzanella Salad

Several years ago I was looking at a loaf of Ciabatta bread on my kitchen counter. The Ciabatta was about to go stale and we were in the heat of a Phoenix summer. Normally I use stale bread to dunk into soup, but with 110 degrees outside and I was not about to make a hot bowl of soup. As I was looking at the ciabatta the air conditioner was clicking on and then so did my memory. I recalled a salad I had a year or two prior that was delicious…Panzanella. It is a bread salad of sorts and it had a nice bright dressing to it. There was one problem; it had fresh tomatoes in it. Yes, I am Italian; and I cannot stand a fresh tomato. I never have. Call me weird, call me strange, but I really cannot stand the taste or texture of a fresh tomato. I love them cooked, but a bright red juicy tomato right off the vine can make me gag! Maybe this is why my husband and I hit it off so well, he shares my dislike for fresh tomatoes. Since this salad is primarily bread and tomatoes I had my work cut out for me. I wanted to make a version of this salad that we could enjoy.

Panzanella Salad

I started to slice the Ciabatta into cubes for the salad when I remembered I had a jar of sundried tomatoes in my refrigerator. I started to think I was onto something. Grabbing the jar and a bunch of other veggies I whipped up the salad. When Brian came home and tried it he was sold. Ever since then when the weather gets warm he asks for it. He asked for it this week actually; with temperatures reaching the high 80’s here in Seattle…I can see why. But I have not made this salad since last summer and I could not for the life of me remember how I made it.

Some of the ingredients for a Panzanella Salad. (I do not know why i had such a hard time to remember such great ingredients!)

After three trips to the store I had all I needed for the salad. Can you believe I was ready to make the salad when I realized I had no bread, and then no red wine vinegar??? Just then I could hear Brian’s voice telling me to write my recipes down when I like them. I never would have thought that it would happen with a recipe as easy as this. Obviously I was wrong. So now I am writing it down so I will not have this problem again. Why I would forget one of the main ingredients?  I have no idea, but I hope you can make this salad and love it as much as we do.

Panzanella Salad (feeds 4)

4 cups of ciabatta cubes

olive oil

½ cup of sun dried tomatoes, sliced into strips

1 large cucumber; cut in ½, seeded, and sliced

¼ red onion, sliced thinly

1 ½ cups of fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite size pieces

1 tbsp of fresh thyme

1/3 cup of Red wine vinegar (plus more if needed)

2 tsp of Dijon mustard

2 tsp of orange zest

1 clove of garlic minced

sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

About 2 ½ - 3 cups of lettuce leaves, washed and chopped small (I prefer green or red leaf)

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toss your cubed ciabatta cubes with a bit of olive oil (enough to coat them lightly) and place them spaced apart on sheet pans. Sprinkle the coted cubes with a bit of sea salt and bake about 10 minutes keeping an eye on them. You may want to stir them half way through to be sure they evenly toast. You are looking for them to stay slightly chewy, and lightly golden. When done remove from the oven and let cool.

Next; in a medium bowl place your red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, orange zest, thyme, sea salt and black pepper to taste.  To this add about 1/3 cup of Olive oil. Whisk it all together until your dressing is emulsified and set aside.

Before and after...Emulsifying your salad dressing.

Then; in a large bowl place your cucumber, red onion, fresh mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes.  Toss it all with your dressing and then to this add your toasted ciabatta. Toss it all together again and let it sit about 5 minutes. You are looking for all your ingredients to marinate and marry together. I always like to taste it at this point. Sometimes it needs a bit more acid (red wine vinegar); and possible more sea salt, and black pepper.

Finally; when ready to serve gently toss it all with your lettuce.  Be sure that your lettuce gets coated with all of your marinated veggies and ciabatta. Divide it among your plates and enjoy.

Fresh Fall Salad

No matter what the season is outside I can always go for a salad. I really enjoy them whether on their own, or accompanied with a meal. I feel compelled to always use what is fresh and completely in season to result in bright flavors that liven up a palate. My mother-in-law says that I make the best salads and to be honest I find that as a huge compliment. Salads can be wonderful and exciting and way too often overlooked. Making a great salad is not too difficult. When I go anywhere and see a bowl of lettuce with dried out veggies on it placed next to a bottle of store bought dressing I cringe. Personally I find it a crime, but to each their own – if only everyone could open their eyes and mind to the endless possibilities of a salad and how wonderful they can be. Maybe they would find the excitement of them that I do. I always say that you should really “taste” you food and not eat from your memory. This is the perfect opportunity to give it a try. A salad with the flavors of fall is exciting, “taste” it and you can be the judge.

Fresh Fall Salad (feeds 4)

1 small head of Red Leave Lettuce (trimmed, washed, and chopped small)

1 Apple (Pink Lady or Honey Crisp) sliced and chopped

1/3 cup of Pomegranate Seeds

1 ½ cups of walnuts, freshly toasted and chopped

4 oz of fresh goat cheese, crumbled

3 tbsp of olive oil

2 tbsp of red wine vinegar

1 tsp of Dijon mustard

1 tsp of honey

Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste

First; make your dressing by placing your olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey in a small bowl. Wisk it all the ingredients together until it appears to be uniform and well mixed. Season with the sea salt & the black pepper and set aside.

Next; in a large serving bowl add your lettuce, apple, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts. Drizzle a bit of your dressing on it at a time and toss well. You are looking to lightly coat your salad with the dressing and not overload it. .

Finally; to serve the salad sprinkle it with the goat cheese before portioning it onto the plates. It is great when served with some bread, or on the side of a meal.

Happy Birthday Vagabond

This is my one year anniversary for my blog. I was at a loss of what to make for this post. Should it be sweet? Maybe, something with meat? Something that says summer? Since I love to cook with the season I thought I should make something fitting for the end of summer. The whole summer has gone by and I have yet to make my marinated watermelon salad that I love. I have also always wanted to grill a chicken perfectly. What summer meal would be better? This watermelon salad is sweet, spicy, and savory all at the same time with some grilled chicken that has a nice and crispy skin.

I really cannot believe a year has gone by. I feel like it was just a few months ago I was nagging Brian to finish my little cookie girl for my page header. (Yes, Brian designed it all for me. He is so talented!) I am not sure if anyone got that in the past year. I got the idea from a few years ago when I could not find a holiday card that we liked to send out. After a long day in my bakery kitchen I was left with a few undecorated gingerbread girls and boys.  I decorated a couple to look like Brian and I as a joke. When I brought them home we were laughing at it and ending up making it the cover to our holiday card.  You never know where and idea will come from or when inspiration will hit you.

For those of you that have been reading, thank you. I hope you continue to read and share in my recipes and stories. I have heard from some of you from time to time and I greatly appreciate it. It is reassuring to know that others have had success with my recipes; it is also nice to know that you like hearing the stories of my experiences and memories.

Marinated Watermelon Salad (feeds 4)

This is a nice combination of sweet and spicy. It is best to make it a least an hour before serving so that it marinates together. Your guests will love it, not to mention be impressed by how crisp and refreshing it is in the heat of the summer.

4 cups of watermelon, cut into bite size cubes

¼ cup of red onion, chopped small

1 – 2 serrano chilies, minced

1 ½ tsp of fresh ginger, minced

2 limes, juiced

1 tbsp of sugar

½ tsp of kosher salt

3 tbsp of olive oil

1 cup of crumbled feta

6 – 8 mint leaves, chopped

Arugula, washed well and dried

First, in a bowl combing the first seven ingredients. Toss it well and chill for at least an hour in your refrigerator.

To serve, place your arugula on a platter to serve. In the bowl that holds your watermelon mixture add in your feta and mint. Toss again and pour over the arugula. Serve immediately while still chilled or your arugula will begin to wilt.


Perfectly Grilled Chicken

Assorted chicken pieces (legs, thighs, wings, &/or breasts); with skin still on

Sea Salt, Black Pepper, and Garlic Powder to taste

First, rinse your chicken and pat dry. Place on a platter and season liberally with the sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Let it sit at room temperature to absorb the seasoning while your grill heats.

Next, heat your gill on high until it reaches about 400 degrees. When grill is ready be sure to turn one side of the grill to low while the other half of the grill is on high. Place your chicken spaced apart of the side of the grill on low. You will want to wait and watch it closely about 10 – 20 minutes. You are looking for the skin of the chicken to start to render and become opaque along with the meat of the chicken. You should rotate it (still on the low side of the grill) and repeat this on the other side of your chicken.

Then, when your chicken is all opaque and the fat from under the skins had slowly rendered (This is what makes the chicken tender.) You want to turn it over to the other side of the grill that is on high. Keeping an eye on it, you want your chicken to brown and crisp up…about 10 – 15 minutes each piece depending on your grill and cut of chicken.

Finally, when chicken is browned and crispy remove from the grill and place on a serving platter. Let it rest about 5 – 10 minutes before serving so that the chicken can rest and remain tender.



Grilled Caesar Salad

In my travels last year I was in an airport and to pass the time I picked up a vegetarian magazine. I thought I had saved it, but unfortunately it has been misplaced. You see in was a recipe for a Grilled Caesar Salad. The concept was a clean and reinvented recipe that I couldn’t wait to try. It was even more than I thought it would be, and that is why I wish I had it today to give credit where it is deserved; but that will not stop me from remaking it again and again. Given that the weather is warming and grilling season has started it was time for this infamous salad to make an appearance for our dinner. You see you this recipe called for brushing slices of baguette with olive oil and grilling them till toasty; rubbing them with garlic, and then placing your dressing on top of it while resting a grilled half (or quartered) head of romaine above it all. This is one of those salads that requires a fork and knife and will amuse your taste buds to no end. I have adapted the dressing recipe considering the original one is MIA, but there are no complaints. Just as good, possibly better?!?! If you have never tried grilling lettuce you must give it a try – it will transform the way you look at a salad.


Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad (serves 4)

1 – 2 heads of Romaine Lettuce (depending on size), cut in ½ lengths wise and again ¼

1 baguette, sliced into ½ inch diagonal slices

1 – 2 cloves of garlic, halved

½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus long slivers to top salad

½ cup of low fat or fat free Plain Greek Yogurt

2 – 3 tbsp of low fat Mayo

1 ½ tbsp of Dijon Mustard

Zest and Juice of 1 large (or 2 small) Lemons

Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

First, wash and dry your romaine and set aside. Heat your grill to high and brush your baguette slices with olive oil, and do the same for all of your romaine.

Next, in a bowl whisk together you mayo, yogurt, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest. Season it with Sea Salt and Black Pepper. Fold in your grated parmesan and place in your refrigerator to chill and marinate together.

Then, when your gill is hot place your sliced baguette and romaine on it. Keep a close eye on it and keep rotating and turning them all until bread it toasty and romaine has a nice char on it while still keeping somewhat of its texture.

Finally, to assemble rub your toasted baguette slices with your garlic clove halves and place on your plate. Spoon a bit of your dressing onto your baguette slices, and then top with a piece of your charred romaine. Place your parmesan slivers over it all and sprinkle with Sea Salt, Black Pepper and dig in.



Creamy Blue Cheese filled Strawberries with a Lemon dressed Salad

Strawberries are so in right now. One of the markets here had some from a local farm and they were too perfect for words.  The strawberries were plump, ruby red, and possessed a sweetness that only comes from nature.  All I could think about was how they would go so well when paired with blue cheese. Now I must admit that I have thought of making something like this for some time.  Although, I have been rambling the recipe for the filling around in my head for a while; but when I tasted the strawberries I knew exactly where I was headed. Pairing the strawberries with a creamy blue cheese filling, and placing it on top of salad lightly dressed with lemon is almost as perfect as the strawberries were to start with.  I am sure you are curious enough to give it a try…I hope you are as happy as we were when we ate it!


Creamy Blue Cheese filled Strawberries with a Lemon dressed Salad (serves 4)

1 basket of Strawberries (figure about 3 – 5 per plate depending on size)

1 – 1 ½ cups of Mascarpone

½ - ¾ cup of a crumbled Blue Cheese

1 small head of Romaine (chopped small and washed)

½ shallot, thinly sliced rings

½ cup of Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Drizzle of Lemon Olive Oil, or Lemon Juice and Olive Oil mixed

Sea Salt and fresh Black Pepper

First; wash your strawberries and lay them on a towel lined tray or sheet pan to dry. In the meantime, start to breakdown your blue cheese. Place the blue cheese in a mixing bowl and used the back of a spoon to break down its clumps. Once the blue cheese is almost like a paste you are done. With a rubber spatula mix the mascarpone into the blue cheese until well combined. (*Do not over mix the cheeses, it can ruin the texture of it!) Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the mixture and chill until ready to use.

Next; trim the tops off your strawberries. With a sharp paring knife or a small melon baller, gently scoop out the inside of the strawberry without breaking the strawberries “shape”.  When all are done gently fill the hallowed out strawberries with the blue cheese mascarpone mixture with a swirl. Chill all when done until ready to use.

Then; place your lettuce, shallot, and hazelnuts in a mixing bowl. Toss with the lemon olive oil, or the lemon juice and olive oil mixture (about 2 – 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle with the sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Finally; when plating place your dressed salad on its serving plates. Be sure to have a bit of everything (lettuce, hazelnuts, and shallot rings) on each plate. On top place your blue cheese filled strawberries and serve.  You can serve with some fresh bread, or lightly toasted French bread slices.

Note:  The difference in the measurements of the blue cheese and mascarpone depend on how strongly flavored the blue cheese is that you are working with and how much you appreciate the flavor of blue cheese. I personally like a Salem blue or a creamy Gorgonzola for something like this. Do not forget the amount needed may depend on the sizing of the strawberries and how far you stuff them.